Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 488
Marie Lazarre is reliving the day that she tried to join the nuns in the Convent of the Sacred Heart. Walking to the door, she considers her motives: to be respected, even revered, by the nuns, who look down on her because she is from the reservation (even though she does not “have that much Indian blood”), and to get away from “the bush” and into town. She also remembers the day Sister Leopolda, hearing the “Dark One” in the coat closet, hurled a long hooked pole through the closet door, then made the terrified Marie stand in the dark closet because the girl had smiled.
Sister Leopolda shows Marie in by the back door, then takes her to the larder and lets the girl see the rich food reserved for the priest. She feeds Marie goat cheese and talks to her while they mix and knead bread. Marie challenges the nun, asserting that she will inherit her keys to the larder, and Leopolda says that she can see the devil in Marie’s soul. When a cup rolls under the stove, Leopolda makes Marie reach under with her arm rather than the poker to retrieve it. As the girl lies on the floor, the nun places her foot on Marie’s neck, pouring boiling water on her back and shoulders to warm her heart with devotion.
As Marie eats cold mush, waits for the bread to rise, and listens to the nuns eating their sausage, she has a vision: She has been transformed into gold, her breasts tipped with diamonds, and she walks through panes of glass that Leopolda must swallow. Two French nuns enter the kitchen, ask if Marie belongs to Leopolda, and compliment the girl on her docility; they help rake coals into the oven. While the bread bakes, Leopolda takes Marie to her room and puts salve on the girl’s back; Marie sees her vision again and tells Leopolda that it is the nun who is caught by the Dark One. When they return to the kitchen, Leopolda, fork and poker in hand, orders Marie to help take the bread out of the oven. When the nun opens the oven door, Marie tries to kick her into the hot oven, but the nun’s outstretched poker causes her to rebound out. She turns and impales Marie’s hand on the fork, then knocks her out with the poker.
About half an hour later, Marie awakens, lying on clean sheets on a couch. All the nuns, including Sister Leopolda, are kneeling in attitudes of reverence around her. Marie lifts her bloody, bandaged hand and calls Leopolda to her in the voice of a saint. Leopolda says that she explained to the nuns that Marie had received the stigmata and then fainted. Marie laughs, then blesses Leopolda. However, seeing the emptiness and hunger for love underlying the nun’s depravity, she cannot relish her triumph.